Activists from Myanmar, Syria, and beyond call for Facebook to fix moderation

At a press conference today, a coalition of activists from Myanmar, Syria and six other countries asked Facebook to adopt a more consistent and transparent moderation approach. Facebook has been criticized for its role in fueling a genocide in Myanmar and allowing for broader political manipulation around the world.

"Many of the countries here have been committed to Facebook for years to try to get justice in our communities," said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, CEO of Equality Labs. "And what we're finding is that Facebook has different standards for different markets. "

The group also includes activists from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Ethiopia, which are countries where Facebook has sought to expand. your user base. "We are the next billion Internet users, so let's exercise our power, and it really starts today," said Soundararajan. "We are no longer on the Facebook timeline, we are on our timeline."

The new coalition comes less than two months after activist groups in Myanmar sent a public letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling for greater transparency and local commitment. Zuckerberg publicly acknowledged the situation and told Congress: "What is happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we have to do more."

The coalition is particularly notable because it rejects Facebook's usual approach to addressing the problems of moderation in one country per country. "The point of moderation of siloing in different countries is to establish different benchmarks as to what they are willing to change," said Soundararajan.

When asked if private country-by-country conversations were productive, he replied: "Have you ever had a productive conversation with Facebook?"

The coalition established three specific demands, which call for sustained transparency, independence and public auditing worldwide, and a public commitment to the equal application of standards in all the countries in which Facebook operates. In particular, the coalition requested the localized publication of moderation guidelines similar to recent efforts in the United States.

The issue is a particular concern for African activists, given the upcoming elections in Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Berhan Taye, an activist and researcher in Ethiopia, said she had not heard any Facebook contact on the subject. "We know Facebook is going to be armed," Taye said. "We have not had a clear response on Facebook about what happened in the Kenyan elections and what will happen in the next elections."

In Sri Lanka, activists argued that the lack of local moderators, specifically the moderators, was fluent in the Sinhalese. The language spoken by the country's Buddhist majority had allowed the hate speech to run wildly on the platform. The group made a particular call to Facebook to make public its list of slanders that are considered unacceptable locally on the platform, for fear that the list will be biased against the Muslim minority in the country.

"We would like to know who moderates the content," said a Sri Lankan activist. "If it is someone aligned with these extremist groups, then that is a problem because this content will remain online."